By Advocate Contributors

Originally published on Advocate.com September 23 2009 12:20 PM ET

A smoky fire damaged more than a dozen rooms at Fire Island's famed Grove Hotel early Tuesday morning.

The blaze broke out in a housekeeping shed along the north side of Cherry Grove's two-story Grove Hotel shortly before 2 a.m. Firefighters from the Grove, the Fire Island Pines, and other Fire Island and Long Island departments responded to the scene.

The four people inside the hotel evacuated safely, but local firefighter Ian Levine told the Fire Island News the thick smoke made it difficult to find the fire’s source.

“The smoke ran through the entire building,” he said.

The flames damaged 18 rooms and power remains off throughout the hotel because the blaze melted wires. 

“The north end of the hotel is completely burned down,” Grove Hotel manager Ramón Peña-Sierra told Advocate.com.

Shortly before the Grove Hotel caught
fire, another fire was reported in a nearby trash can. There is no
evidence to suggest the two incidents are related, and investigators
have yet to determine what sparked the Grove Hotel fire.

Located in downtown Cherry Grove, the hotel and the adjacent Ice Palace
nightclub are among Fire Island’s largest entertainment complexes.
Comedian Wanda Sykes, Lady Gaga, and DJ Susan Morabito are among those
who have performed in the Ice Palace in recent years.

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Those who work and frequent the complex were understandably upset.

“[I’m] totally devastated but relieved there was no
one hurt,” Ariel Sinclair, a drag queen who has worked at the Ice
Palace for more than 15 years, said.
 
Fellow drag queen Logan Hardcore agreed.
 
“As someone that works there, I feel horrible about it and [I] hope that everything gets fixed,” she said.



Cherry
Grove resident Jim Kelly told Advocate.com he saw smoke “and the glow
of fire in the direction of the center of town” after a second alarm
sounded shortly after 1:30 a.m. He then walked downtown to watch
firefighters douse the flames.
 

“Since the Ice
Palace/Grove Hotel complex is so important to the vitality of the
Grove, I’m glad the damage is not worse than it is,” Kelly said.
 
Fire
Island is particularly vulnerable to fires because of its
isolation, dense vegetation and largely-wood structures. The Grove
Hotel fire is the latest in a series of blazes that have broken out on
the barrier island in recent months.







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A fast-moving fire destroyed
two homes in the Fire Island Pines in January. A second blaze burned
two additional Pines homes to the ground shortly before Memorial Day.
 
The
complex is scheduled to close for the season this weekend, and
Peña-Sierra looks optimistic about the coming months.
 
“It could have been much worse -- and we have all winter to rebuild,” he said.